Fundació Jaume BofillUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)


We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Debats d’Educació by giving the educational community the opportunity to air its views

Michael Osborne
Michael Osborne
Michael Osborne is Professor of Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Glasgow

Michael Osborne is Professor of Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Glasgow and co-director of the Research Cluster in Social Justice, Place and Lifelong Education. He is Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning within the Faculty of Education and Co-director of the PASCAL Observatory on Place Management, Social Capital and Lifelong Learning.

The three things I’ve learned

Flexibility, technology and place are key issues in future LLL thinking. These 3 areas are the foci that I have highlighted.

Will MOOCs realise unmet ambitions of lifelong learning protagonists?

A prevailing discourse within LLL is that of flexibility of provision, on meeting students’ needs at times and places of their own (or their employers') choosing. We have believed that the availability of open and distance learning opportunities using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to be especially important in achieving this flexibility. The growing use of ICT in teaching and learning has meant that long‑standing assumptions about the relationship between time, place and learning has broken down. ICT means that not only do learners do not have to attend a particular place; they also do not have to learn at particular times or in particular ways or from particular organisations. We have seen a multiplicity of ways of accessing knowledge that could not have been envisaged a decade ago, manifested in particular by the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Will MOOCs provide a quantum leap for LLL or are they a marketing device in the competitive world of international HE?


Will LLL bring economic benefit for future generations?

It has been the benefits associated with employability, whether this entails obtaining a job or career promotion that are seen as prime motivators for participation in lifelong learning. There has been a strong association between private economic benefits and level of qualification, though delaying the investment reduces the return. For example, it might not make sense economically as an individual gets beyond a certain age to undertake a full-time degree, but rather a part-time vocational qualification.  Further, as the banks tell us past performance of investment cannot be a predictor for the future. Is that the same case with LLL? Can we assume in the future that LLL will bring the sorts of benefits that has in the past? If so then a focus on employment and employability might be only one of a multiplicity of arguments for LLL. Other tangible (and less tangible) benefits associated with health and well-being and the environment might be deserve greater focus in our rhetoric.


Are cities in Europe falling behind those of Asia as Lifelong Learning places?

The learning city/region often refers to the promotion of collaboration of the civic, private, voluntary and education sectors in the process of achieving agreed upon objectives. These often will be related to the twin goals of sustainable economic development and social inclusiveness. Within cities and regions multiple stakeholders, and not simply educational institutions, play a role in promoting lifelong learning. In the European arena there has been much emphasis on the concept of learning cities, and UNESCO is launching its International Platform of Learning Cities shortly in Beijing. Is Europe, however, falling behind the Asian economies such as Korea and China in their focus on learning and place, and not recognising the importance of integrated thinking in LLL at a local and regional level? Whilst there is strong recognition that a strong underpinning infrastucture of LLL is key to attracting investment, how many cities in Europe emphasis this aspect of their attractiveness?

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